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Posts Tagged ‘Science Fiction’

Shultz-photo-128x128 Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Jill Shultz. Jill Shultz has always been enthralled by the places where the wild meets the fantastic. She’s the award-winning author of Angel on the Ropes, science fiction with a Cirque du Soleil vibe. For most of her career she’s zigzagged between environmental and arts organizations; some of the strange but true consequences can be found on the author page of her website.

Born in Brooklyn before it was cool, she now lives upstate, where she awaits the arrival of transporters to whisk her to the sage flats of Yellowstone every dawn.

Jill Shultz’s latest book, Angel on the Ropes, is a novel circus and science fiction fans are sure to enjoy. A quick summary for my readers—Amandine Sand lives to fly. Unfortunately, she’s hobbled by a life-threatening secret: she’s one of the spotted humans wrongly accused of being a plague carrier. These “leopards” are hunted by zealots to protect their off-world colony from the scourge. Despite this threat, Amandine spends her days guiding other leopards to an underground shelter run by the pacifist Seekers. At night, with her own spots hidden, she soars on the trapeze, the one place she feels free and gloriously alive.

When the persecution of leopards explodes into widespread violence, the Seekers demand more of her time. But her circus is teetering toward bankruptcy and desperately needs her, too. She has no time to breathe…then she meets a stranger who leaves her breathless—and might be the biggest risk of all. If her trust is misplaced and she’s unmasked, everyone she loves and everything she’s fought for could crash.

To survive, Amandine must draw upon all of her circus and Seeker skills. But can a pacifist defend her violent enemies to stop a civil war? And can this reluctant angel fly beyond her limits to save her life, her love, and her world?

AR_cover-trade_120312.indd Where did the idea come from for your latest book, Angel on the Ropes?

The origin of this novel was quite unusual for me. Generally, my curiosity is piqued by some unusual fact or phrase or experience that prompts research, which deepens my intrigue and eventually develops into a story. Angel on the Ropes, however, began with an emotion. For a day or so I walked around feeling my protagonist’s longing. I had to figure out what she wanted so badly—she was driving me nuts!

Once I realized she was an artist and a performer, I decided to focus on the circus (based on an experience some years before that transformed the way I thought about circus.) Amandine’s personality was inspired by interviews with professional circus artists. When I uncovered her biggest problem and her secret dream, I had the story.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?

Amandine Sand, the protagonist. She longs for the basic things that most of us want: love, happiness, a sense of accomplishment… but she’s caught between two opposing worlds, and to make matters even worse, she has a life-threatening secret. So this very flamboyant and passionate trapeze artist is also secretive and constrained. I love passionate people who are full-throttle, and is she ever. Her transformation was so satisfying.

Interestingly, I’m terrified of heights. Imagining what it was like to adore flying was truly entering a new world! I did try flying trapeze during my research and actually launched the book from a flying trapeze, because, “book launch.” How could I resist?

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?

Self-published. For me, the key advantages of self-publishing are creative control, nimbleness in marketing, and longevity. I had a great relationship with my editor and cover artist. Of course, when you’re acting as both writer and publisher—in effect, starting a business—there’s a lot more work to do and higher costs. Plus, science fiction and fantasy is not yet as open to self-published authors as other genres, so many promotional opportunities are unavailable.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?

I’m both. I tend to do a lot of research before I begin writing, and develop character profiles based on psychological theory. With my current novel, I’m pushing myself to create fairly detailed chapter summaries first. That’s tough but productive.

The research continues as I write, though it changes. If I simply need to fact-check something, I just leave myself a note in the margin to do that later, which allows me to keep up my momentum. If I can’t write a scene effectively without more information, then I’ll stop and do the research I need right then. Of course, if a fabulous interview opportunity arises, I’ll make time for it.

During the first draft, I’ll write scenes that are rattling around in my head and not worry about whether they’ll end up in the story, knowing they’ll contribute to a deeper understanding of my characters, if nothing else. The combination of planning and writing into the unknown helps me navigate my doubts while still remaining open enough for those lucky discoveries.

For me, the most fun happens during revision.

What was your favorite book as a child?

The first book I remember falling in love with was Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. Just thinking about it makes me smile. That book was so full of joy and discovery, so boundless, so magical.

Like many others, Anne McCaffrey was one of the first science fiction and fantasy authors I encountered, beginning with the Dragonriders of Pern series. I wanted to be best friends with a dragon, though I probably would’ve freaked out while flying (see fear of heights above). I’m still a sucker for dragons. And witches. And shapeshifters of all types. I’m equally drawn to science fiction and fantasy.

I’ve always been a voracious reader and a member of the Bad Decisions Book Club (readers who make bad life choices they know they will dearly regret the next day because they just can’t stop reading a good story, even if they toothpicks to prop their eyelids open).

What writing project are you currently working on?

A novel about a wolf biologist in Yellowstone who’s going to have to make some very hard choices to protect what she loves most. In the process, she’ll wrestle with a pack of werewolves who are radical environmentalists. It’s full of wildlife geekiness, moral challenges, and love…which pretty much sums up my life.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?

“Don’t flinch.”

Andre Dubus III said that during a workshop. The more I learn about writing, the more it makes sense to me. My early drafts are full of flinches. Sometimes when the discomfort is really bad, I’ll just write notes to myself about the work I need to do and move on. Does that count as a half-flinch? Other times I try to push through right then, knowing that if I wrestle with this, I may discover something powerful. Learning is often uncomfortable, after all.

A special offer from Jill: If you’d like a free copy of the ebook version of Angel on the Ropes, send a message to Jill here.

Want to learn more about Jill Shultz and Angel on the Ropes? Check out her:  Website and Amazon Authors Page.

Or better yet, purchase a paperback copy of Angel on the Ropes.

Thanks to author Jill Shultz for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Wendy Van Camp on March 19, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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bo balder pic 2016 Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Bo Balder. Bo lives and works close to Amsterdam. Bo is the first Dutch author to have been published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and Clarkesworld. Her fiction has also appeared in Escape Pod, Nature and other places. Her science fiction novel, The Wan, was published by Pink Narcissus Press. She is a member of SFWA, Codex Writers and a graduate of Viable Paradise.

Bo Balder’s latest book, The Wan, is a novel science fiction fans are sure to enjoy. A quick summary for my readers—In a far future, on a faraway planet, humans have become infected by The Wan. The alien Wan are creatures that communicate by feeding each other poems composed of their own flesh. Obsessed alien and former human biologist Ing infects Frog, a barren slave girl and Firdaus, deposed ruler of the human settlement, with the alien fungus. When a once-in-a-millenium reproductive event threatens to destroy all human life on the planet, Frog and Firdaus must choose between transforming their loved ones into cadaverous toadstools, and surviving—or watching them all die in a planetary holocaust. Unless Frog can come up with a third solution…with the help of her greatest enemy.
wan front cover bo Where did the idea come from for your latest book, The Wan?

The same place all my ideas come from, a strange place between waking and sleeping, between trance and relaxation. At first the book was set in darkness, catacombs beneath a city, and it was only when I decided to go above ground in the bright sunlight that the whole plot took its (mostly) final shape.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?

I think it’s Ing–she is kind of the villain, but she’s also a mover and a shaker and a wounded human being who only ever tries to do good. Her story is a tragic loss of memory and identity, of everyone she’s ever known. I’m happy that some of her lives on.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?

It was published by a small independent press, Pink Narcissus. The advantage to having an indie publisher is that the communication is very direct and personal, the disadvantage is of course the lack of money for PR and distribution channels.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?

I’m a bit of both! I outline in advance, but only in a very global way, so that within the limits of a scene the pantser part of my writer persona still gets to play.

What was your favorite book as a child?

I was blown away by The Tripods by John Christopher. It was the first science fiction book I got my hands on and I absolutely loved it. I had seen science fiction TV (The Thunderbirds) without realizing what it was, but The Tripods was a much more creative and personal story. The protagonist in The Tripods was a child, like me, caught up in circumstances not of his own making. The idea of aliens just fascinated me. Once I realized there was a whole genre devoted to this stuff I was off. A fan for life.

What writing project are you currently working on?

I’m editing a couple of short stories, and will soon be writing more, but I’m also preparing/ brainstorming/ outlining a new space opera novel.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?

Let your subconscious do the writing for you and only put on your editor hat when it’s finished. Don’t read back, don’t spellcheck, don’t second guess yourself.

Want to learn more about Bo Balder and The Wan? Check out her:  WebsiteFacebook page Twitter,  and Amazon Authors Page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of The Wan.

Thanks to author Bo Balder for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Loren Rhoads on March 12, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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DHTimpko_HeadShotReallyCropped Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, D. H. Timpko.  D. H. Timpko is a long-time reader of science fiction, fantasy, and mysteries. She and her husband, who she met at a science fiction convention, own over ten thousand books. They also own over a hundred paintings and prints.

After working for many years as a writer and editor for publishing companies, associations, and corporations, Timpko retired. Now she writes fiction and nonfiction full time. She is a member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI); the Writers-Editors Network; the Independent Book Publishers Association; Broad Universe, which is an association supporting female writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror; and Small Publishers, Artists, and Writers Network (SPAWN).

She and her husband live in northern Virginia, along with their intellectually challenged, but sweet, cats Kalliope and Cocoa.

D. H. Timpko’s latest book, The Firma Twins and the Flute of Enchantment, is a novel science fiction (and sf con-goers) fans are sure to enjoy. A quick summary for my readers—Twelve-year-old Electra Firma plans to win an Olympic Gold Medal in ice skating when she’s old enough to compete. Her coach is convinced she has the talent. That’s the problem. Electra’s talent comes from her part-alien heritage, which gives her superhuman abilities, and her parents forbid her from competing. Depressed, Electra rejects her inheritance and refuses to hone her alien skills. A new threat by an enemy alien race forces Electra, her identical twin sister Isis, and their best friends to infiltrate the aliens to find the Flute of Enchantment and protect humanity. If Electra doesn’t master shape shifting, she and her best friend face imminent death.

The_Firma_Twins_and__Cover_for_Kindle Where did the idea come from for your latest book, The Firma Twins and the Flute of Enchantment?

The idea came from attending science fiction conventions for over 40 years. In The Firma Twins Adventures, two sets of warring aliens land on Earth ten thousand years ago: the Squrlon and the Vympyrym. Both are shape shifters. The Squrlon often appear as gray squirrels and the Vympyrym as human-size rats.

This book, the second in an unending series, revolves around Electra Firma who is a part-human descendant of the Squrlon. She and her identical twin sister Isis discover in the first book, The Firma Twins and the Purple Staff of Death, they’re inherited special alien powers they must use to protect the Squrlon. In this book Electra must develop her powers and shape shifting abilities. The problem is Electra resents being part alien, ignores the rules for shape shifting, and takes unnecessary risks.

Having Electra attend a science fiction convention had distinct advantages. First, I could write about something with which I’m familiar. To create the perfect hostile environment for Electra, however, the convention, called RatCon, is put on by the Vympyrym, the enemy aliens. RatCon has some of the normal trappings of a science fiction con, but it differs significantly.

Second, RatCon forces Electra to master shape shifting. Early on—and not by her own choice—she shape shifts into a Vympyrym, a form she’s not always able to maintain. If she reverts to her natural form, she and her best friend face death.

Third, RatCon allowed me to provide a more detailed description of the Vympyrym and how they think and act. I was also able to reveal key information about them and the Squrlon as a part of the action and plot.

Fourth, writing about RatCon was a lot of fun.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?

I like both of the Firma twins, Isis and Electra. Both books are told in first person: the first book by Isis, who is the more serious twin, and the second by Electra. I also like their best friends, Phoenix Rising and Kelly Horton, who are the kind of friends everyone needs. In this book Kelly plays a particularly important role.

However, when I was writing The Firma Twins and the Flute of Enchantment, I introduced an unplanned character, Pricklethorn Ratbait, early in the book. Pricklethorn, who is the same age as Electra, is a Vympyrym. Not knowing who Electra really is, she escorts her around the convention. Pricklethorn is an invaluable addition to the book and I like her a lot.

Overall though, Electra is my favorite character in this book. It was a challenge to put her in a position where she realized she needed to accept her heritage and alien powers. More than that, she needed to understand on a gut level the consequences of not learning how to use her alien abilities. Innocent people could die, not just herself but her best friend and others. The book shows how Electra’s character develops and grows, but she remains true to herself.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?

I worked professionally as a writer and editor for 42 years. So I understand how to design and publish a book from the point of view of using desktop publishing software and designing, formatting, and printing a book. I know how to work with artists. The disadvantage is that marketing and promotion are difficult. For that reason alone, I would far rather be traditionally published. However, the children’s book market is the most competitive one in the industry. Therefore, I created the Gettier Group, which has published five books—not all mine—to date.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?

Writing nonfiction for too many years prevents me from being a pantser. Also, from a personality point of view, I’m an architect. Writing fiction, however, differs from writing nonfiction. Although I don’t create a detailed outline for fiction, I still must think through the plot thoroughly.

The outline for both the first and second books was one sentence per chapter. I didn’t want it to be so detailed that I couldn’t incorporate changes. For nonfiction my outlines are always detailed and rarely change.

For the first Firma Twins book I also used Scene Tracker, a device created by Martha Alderson, to track scene by scene action, character emotional development, plot, thematic significance, and so forth. It was significantly helpful. For the second book I kept Scene Tracker in mind as I wrote.

In the actual writing, I allow the pantser to have some say. The plot won’t change, but how it’s told might. For example, the addition of Pricklethorn Ratbait was not someone I had planned.

Many of the enemy aliens in The Firma Twins and the Flute of Enchantment were created as I needed them. I like to rely on the feeling in the manuscript so far to give me inspiration for necessary characters. That is, my one-sentence outline of The Firma Twins and the Flute of Enchantment said that Electra and her friend Kelly go to a reading. I knew I would need to create an enemy alien reading from his book. So I didn’t create Malofic Crooked Tail, author of the Rat King series of sf novels, until that chapter. By that time I had a full sense of the convention and the aliens (I write from the beginning of the book to the end for the most part). One of Malofic’s actions was inspired by an amusing story a boss told me about hearing Werner Von Braun speak at a meeting of the Public Relations Society of America. Although I’m not saying Von Braun was a Vympyrym, what he did at that meeting was easily adapted to fit the mood of the manuscript.

Bottom line: I’m mostly an architect but about 25 to 40 percent pantser.

What was your favorite book as a child?

My first favorite book, which my father read to me when I was two and three years old, was Henny Penny (also called Chicken Little). I loved it because the illogic of all the characters was so funny.

Later, my favorite book was The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Fantasy became one of my favorite genres, although I was addicted to reading pretty much anything. Since I was the youngest kid in my family, The Twelve Dancing Princesses also appealed to me because the heroine was the youngest sister.

Many years later when I attended the 1989 Worldcon in Boston, I instantly recognized from several feet away Ruth Sanderson’s painting as The Twelve Dancing Princesses and bought a print. I regret I didn’t have enough money to buy the painting.

What writing project are you currently working on?

Several. I’m writing the third Firma Twins Adventure, The Firma Twins and the Paisley Egg, which is told by Isis Firma and takes place in Fripp Island, South Carolina.

I’m also updating my nonfiction book, Knee Replacement Advice, Checklists, and Journal: 5 Steps for Successful Recovery Even If You Have Complications, which I published under my nonfiction pseudonym, Alexis Dupree. My left knee replacement was September 2018; my right knee replacement was June 2014.

Next year my small press Gettier Group plans to publish Immigrant from the Stars, a middle grade science fiction book by Gail Kamer.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?

Show, not tell.

Want to learn more about D. H. Timpko and The Firma Twins and the Flute of Enchantment? Check out her:  WebsiteGoodreads pageTwitter,  and Amazon Authors Page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of The Firma Twins and the Flute of Enchantment.

Thanks to author D. H. Timpko for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Heidi Hanley Smith on February 28, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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CLundoff Publicity photo Whimsical Words welcomes guest author-editor-publisher, Catherine Lundoff. Catherine Lundoff is a Minneapolis-based award-winning writer, editor, and publisher. Her recent stories have appeared in Tales of the Unanticipated, Curious Fictions, The Cainite Conspiracies: A Vampire the Masquerade V20 Anthology, The Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper Tales and The Mammoth Book of the Adventures of Professor Moriarty. Her books include Silver Moon, Out of This World: Queer Speculative Fiction Stories and as editor, Scourge of the Seas of Time (and Space). She is the publisher at Queen of Swords Press.

Catherine Lundoff’s latest book, Scourge of the Seas of Time (and Space), is a new anthology fans of pirates and adventure are sure to enjoy. A quick summary for my readers—Think pirates are all about the rum and the pieces of eight? Let these fifteen tales draw you into the adventures of a new kind of pirate. Sail with them as they seek treasure, redemption, love, revenge and more. Raise the Jolly Roger and sharpen your cutlass (or recharge your raygun) and climb aboard for some unforgettable voyages. Featuring stories by Ginn Hale, A.J. Fitzwater, Geonn Cannon, Joyce Chng, Elliott Dunstan, Ashley Deng, Su Haddrell, Ed Grabianowski, Mharie West, Matisse Mozer, Soumya Sundar Mukherjee, Megan Arkenberg, Peter Golubock, Michael Merriam, and Caroline Sciriha.

ebook QoSP Scourge 432 x 648 72 dpilundoff Where did the idea come from for your latest book, Scourge of the Seas of Time (and Space)?

I started my own small press last year and I wanted to publish an anthology. Originally, it was on a different theme and was going to have a different editor, but that fell through, so I decided to go ahead with another theme that I liked. I’ve always had a fondness for pirates, fictional as well as historical, starting with reading Treasure Island when I was a kid. Since pirates historically turn up all over the world, as well as in fantasy and science fiction, I thought it would be a great opportunity to solicit stories from writers from different countries as well as subgenres. I also opened it up to stories featuring protagonists of any gender or orientation to try and get to a reflection of the diversity of the topic.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?

Ooh, that would be a challenge! I really like all the stories in different ways. I think you really have to get to a point where you appreciate all the strengths of every story you accept when you’re editing an anthology. Between story selection and rounds of editing, you’re going to be reading and rereading those same stories a LOT. Multiple rereads in, I still love all the protagonists in a book with stories that range from the aftermath of the Trojan War to outer space, (most of) the 7 seas and the lands beyond!

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?

It’s traditionally published in the sense that it’s being released by a publishing house; however, Queen of Swords Press is my small press so things get a bit complicated there. I have edited or co-edited two previous anthologies for a different small press though, so I have something to compare it to. The contrast between editing for someone else and doing it on my own is the scale of work involved. I’m doing all my own publicity for Scourge of the Seas of Time (and Space) as well as for other Queen of Swords Press titles and I’m taking all the financial risks. On the other hand, I get to make my own decisions without needing to answer to anyone else and pick stories based on what I like. I’m pretty pleased with the mix of stories that I selected and I know that it would look somewhat different if I had to answer to a different publisher.

What is your writing/editing process like?

I’ll talk about my editing here, instead of writing, because that’s been my latest focus. In terms of story selection, I tried to put a lot of thought into the kind of anthology that I wanted to publish. I wanted a mix of pirate stories set in different parts of the world as well as in fantastical settings and in outer space. I wanted a range of protagonists to somewhat reflect the historical diversity of pirate ships and crews. Add to that, I wanted authors from different parts of the world as well as protagonists of different genders and sexual orientations. So I did an open call where I specifically asked for international authors and for protagonists of any gender or orientation. I ended up getting submissions from authors in fourteen countries, which was pretty amazing.

From those submissions, I had to go through and pick the strongest of the stories that I got, then decide which ones I wanted in the anthology. I tried to pick based on my goals: having a diverse range of pirate stories and an anthology Table of Contents that wasn’t all white guys or all cis people or all from the U.S. Fortunately, I had a lot of really good stories to choose from so it was a more a matter of picking “best in class” rather than “I must take it because it’s the only thing like it that I have.” Editing themed anthologies can be challenging that way. I say this despite this being my third one, so you would think it would get easier with practice. At any rate, everything after the story selection part was reading and rereading and providing feedback to the authors and incorporating changes and getting copy edits back and so forth.

What was your favorite book as a child?

I had a LOT of favorite books as a child and they changed every couple of years. The first book I ever read on my own was Alice in Wonderland, then I went through a lot of Robert Louis Stevenson, fairy tales and other related work. Alexandre Dumas and Jane Austen got me through my early teens. On bad weeks, The Count of Monte Cristo is still a map of my mental landscape. When in doubt, I can always count on getting a mental image of tunneling out of the Chateau d’If with a spoon. Puts everything in perspective. I have a list of every book that I’ve read since I was ten years old so I can backtrack through the Narnia years, the Lloyd Alexander years, and so forth. I owe my fragile sanity entirely to reading, but I have to say that it was a collective effort. I can name ten to twenty favorite books, but not just one.

What writing project are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on Blood Moon, the sequel to my menopausal werewolf novel, Silver Moon. Blood Moon focuses on the same protagonists as in the previous novel and has more mystery and romance elements than the first book. Apart from that, I’m working on a couple of new short stories and some gaming-related projects. And the next books for Queen of Swords. I like to keep things lively.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?

It’s a toss-up between “Learn to love rewriting” and “Pick a day job you don’t hate, because you’ll spend more time there than anywhere else.” They are both useful, if somewhat depressing, in their own way. I think both pieces of advice are also very realistic and sometimes, we need to hear that. I know there’s a strain of thought, particularly in genre fiction, that “real writers don’t need day jobs,” but I think that gets less and less realistic for most of us as the field changes. And rewriting for me is like painting: you do a sketch, and then, start adding layers. Those layers add depth and beauty, if you do them well, in the same way that rewrites help you to create a better story and become a better writer.

Want to learn more about Catherine Lundoff and Scourge of the Seas of Time (and Space)? Check out her:  WebsiteFacebook pageQueen of Swords Press Website, and Amazon Authors Page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of Scourge of the Seas of Time (and Space) from Books2Read or IndieBound.

Thanks to author-editor-publisher Catherine Lundoff for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Meriah Crawford on February 14, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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suz-headshot-18 Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert. Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert writes horror, dark fantasy, science fiction, and the occasional poem. Her short fiction has been published in the anthologies Killing It Softly, The Deep Dark Woods, and The Final Summons. Her poetry has appeared in places such as the anthology Wicked Witches, Tales of the Zombie War, “The Wayfarer: A Journal of Contemplative Literature,” and “Eternal Haunted Summer.” Suzanne is a freelance editor and content creation expert. She’s currently writing several more works of short fiction in between meeting the incessant demands of her feline overlords.

Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert’s latest published story, “In Darkness, She Sheds,” appears in The Final Summons (New England Speculative Writers, 2019). A quick summary for my readers: In a land where the human Master controls both humans and fae, a chance accident enables Savron d’Fae—Master’s Elixir-Mistress and former concubine—to glimpse the true nature of Master’s rule.

Where did the idea come from for your latest published story, “In Darkness, She Sheds”?

I wrote the first version almost two years ago, as a reaction to the fury I felt watching Kellyanne Conway stand up and lie and defend Trump’s actions on whatever that day’s disaster was. I kept thinking, “Why do women not support each other and make alliances with men who are innately against their best interests?” I kept turning that thought around in my head and I wrote the story to get out some of that anger.

Who is your favorite character in the story—and why?

That’s a tough question. Probably Darron, even though she gets introduced halfway through the story. Savron, who begins the story, is also a compelling character. What I like about both of these fae women is that they are very brave and decisive despite being literal slaves and discovering that their realities were not what they thought.

final sum Where and when will this story be published?

This story appears in the just-released anthology The Final Summons, which is the premier anthology from the New England Speculative Writers. They formed about two years ago and have amazing and dedicated leadership. They quickly came up with the idea for this anthology and put out the call for submissions to writers in New England. They had a good number of submissions, so I was really happy to make the cut.

The anthology was crowd-funded in order to pay fair compensation to the contributors, editors, and artist. They were also able to hire a blurb writer. I think it was a successful model, and the anthology will be available in both print and electronic versions.

I encourage any aspiring writers who feel daunted by writing a novel to try writing short stories first, and getting them placed in anthologies with more established writers, if possible. It’s great exposure for you, and you’ll learn a lot from your fellow contributors.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?

I’m a short story writer, not a novelist (yet!) and I’m a total pantser! I get into my writing mindset, and the characters “tell” me what’s going to happen next. Having said that, I do make notes and do some character studies. But I’ve found that when I put too much on paper, it inhibits my creative flow. I do a lot of work “in my head.” I do hope to get better at outlining. I attribute my inability to successfully write a novel (yet!) to getting too bogged down in the outline process. But I believe I’ll figure it out eventually!

What was your favorite book as a child?

As a child, I adored the Little House books and read them over and over. I liked a female protagonist, reading about perilous situations, and I liked that Laura was a person not afraid to stand up for what she believed.

When I got a bit older, I fell in love with dystopias. I believe I was about ten when I first stumbled upon Animal Farm at my grandmother’s house. Then, I read 1984 and Brave New World in quick succession. My mind was literally blown by the concept that people could manipulate each other so capriciously, and that others could so easily fall prey to misinformation.

What writing project are you currently working on?

I’m currently finishing up another short story, “Unafraid,” which is horror. On the back burner are two novellas (one scifi/fantasy; the other scifi/horror) that need more editing, and I have an idea for a horror novel that I haven’t been able to successfully write out. It’s based on what was initially a short story and it’s about 35% done.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?

Do what works for you! That is honestly the best advice. I was bogged down for years thinking I’d never be successful because I didn’t write every day (and still don’t.) Find your own rhythm. Make your own path. Although it doesn’t hurt to try others’ “sage advice” to see if it resonates.

Want to learn more about Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert and her short fiction, including “In Darkness, She Sheds”? Check out her: Website–Voices in my Head, Twitter, Facebook page, Bookbub, Goodreads, and Amazon page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of The Final Summons.

Thanks to author Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Catherine Lundoff on February 12, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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Version 3 Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, K.G. Anderson. K.G. Anderson writes short fiction—urban fantasy, space opera, alternate history, Weird West tales, near-future science fiction, poetry, and mystery. Her stories appear in more than a dozen magazines and anthologies, as well on online at sites including Every Day Fiction and the podcast Far Fetched Fables. She’s done narration for Star Ship Sofa.

She has degrees in psychology and journalism, and attended the Viable Paradise and Taos Toolbox writing workshops. Her career as a journalist, arts reviewer and technology writer includes six years at Apple, where she worked on the launch of the iTunes Music Store.

Born in Washington, D.C., she has lived in Northern Virginia, Southern Connecticut, and Genoa, Italy. She currently makes her home in Seattle with her partner, Tom Whitmore, and slightly more than the local limit of cats.

terra tara terror cover kg anderson K.G. Anderson’s latest published story, “Captain Carthy’s Bride,” appears in Terra! Tara! Terror! edited by Juliana Rew (Third Flatiron, 2018). A quick summary for my readers:
“Captain Carthy’s Bride” opens on a rocky shore where Sheila O’Farrell lies naked, a selkie’s coat spread on the rocks nearby. Will Carthy, a World War I war hero and now the captain of a merchant ship, is vacationing at the hotel where Sheila works. Her plan is to have him mistake her for a selkie and take her as his bride to the big city. At first, the plan succeeds. As Carthy’s selkie bride (he renames her Moira), she acquires a loving husband, a large home, and two healthy children. But after the children grow up and leave home, trouble appears and Sheila realizes she must pay a terrible price for the selkie’s coat.

Where did the idea come from for your latest published story, “Captain Carthy’s Bride”?

I’m a reactionary writer — I often read a story or a novel and I think “no! no! no!” and write my own, contrarian, view of how the story should have gone. “Captain Carthy’s Bride” was written in reaction to two other stories. The first was yet another re-telling of the classic selkie tale: the selkie is captured by the fisherman who, by hiding her coat from her, is able to keep her captive, leading to much unhappiness and tragedy all around. I was frustrated because I saw nothing new in the story. The second story was Manny Frishberg’s “The Fisherman’s Wife,” published in Triangulation: Beneath the Surface. Manny cleverly flipped the classic story by giving the selkie a choice. While the first story had frustrated me, Manny’s story inspired me to break the selkie trope even further. This resulted in “Captain Carthy’s Bride,” a story in which an ambitious hotel chambermaid pretends to be a selkie in order to attract a wealthy sea captain who will “capture” her.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?

The chambermaid’s mother, Mrs. O’Farrell. For many years, the Widow O’Farrell believes that her daughter Sheila drowned in the sea. She’s initially pleased when Sheila reappears, now the wife of an affluent man, but her approval turns to horror as she realizes the price her daughter will pay for stealing a selkie’s coat. The Widow O’Farrell is my favorite character because she’s the one most attuned to the dreadful power of the sea and the selkies.

How do you find your markets—what factors make you choose one market over another?

I could go one for hours on the topic of markets! I teach a seminar called “Strategies for Submitting Short Fiction” that explores the many, many factors that you have to balance when submitting fiction.

Every successful short story author I know uses a definite strategy, and that strategy is likely to change as their career evolves. The important thing is to create a strategy and to stick with it. I find that using a tool like the Submission Grinder makes it easy to track whatever factors are important to you, such as a publication’s payment level, speed of response, and the percentage of submissions a publication accepts.

The two most important factors for me are these:
–The market must pay (even if it’s only a token payment).
–The editor must be reputable (experienced is good, too, but reputable is essential). When I was first submitting stories, I had one accepted somewhere that I later discovered was not well regarded. I was crushed. The story didn’t look good, and the magazine didn’t look good, and I didn’t want to show the publication to anyone. Fortunately, that story later saw the light of day as a reprint.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?

I’m a trancer. I get an idea, usually in the morning, and I sit down at the computer and the first few pages of the story appear as if by magic. Initially this was a problem for me because I’d return to the story a few days later and have no idea where it was going. Some of those stories just died on the page. Now I have learned to force myself, even before I sit down at the computer to write, to envision an ending for the story. It might not be the eventual ending, but having an ending in mind turned out to be crucial to my ability to finish the story — to push the project from “great idea” to “great story.” So, in that sense, I’m a big-picture planner.

I don’t outline, but, as a visual thinker, I often have a sketch of the story’s shape. The sketch is much like a graph, with lines showing where exposition, and plot, and energy rise and fall. This enables me to see if the story has flat spots and to infuse those with more conflict or suspense.

What was your favorite book as a child?

Either The Thurber Carnival (short stories by James Thurber) or E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. Both Thurber and White were frequently in The New Yorker, my dad’s favorite magazine, so it was natural that my parents bought me those books. I loved the humorous situations, the descriptive language, and the eccentric characters. I’ll never forget the worrywart aunt in Charlotte’s Web, who shouted after the children dumb advice like, “Don’t cross the race track when the horses are coming.” Or Thurber’s Aunt Sarah Shoaf. She was convinced that burglars entered her house every night and that the only reason she never lost anything was because she threw shoes at them. “Some nights she threw them all, some nights only a couple of pair.” I wanted to write lines like that, and write scenes that would etch themselves in the reader’s mind.

What writing project are you currently working on?

I’ve recently joined a small critique group, and that is helping me focus on bringing stories from draft form to finished, submittable form. I have a story about cyberpets—inspired by an Orycon panel—that is finished, but which I feel needs quite a bit of tightening. My goal is to be able to send that out to a market in early January.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?

Dr. Debra Doyle critiqued my work at the Viable Paradise workshop and told me “Your writing is professional but not very engaging.” So I asked what I could do to make it more engaging. Her advice was, “You need to take your corset off.” I understood immediately—she meant that my years a journalist and a book reviewer had trained me to stand at a distance from my writing. I was telling stories, but they were cold and superficial.

I took her advice to heart, and at the end of the workshop I wrote a story about a grief counselor trying to help a distraught alien ambassador whose symbiotic partner—the only other alien on Earth—had suddenly died. That story was my first sale, to the Canadian anthology Second Contacts—a book that won the Aurora Award.

Want to learn more about K.G. Anderson and her short fiction, including “Captain Carthy’s Bride”? Check out her: Website & Blog, Twitter, and Amazon page.Amazon page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of Terra! Tara! Terror!

Thanks to author K.G. Anderson for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author MJ Gardner on January 19, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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lana ayers Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Lana Hechtman Ayers. Lana Ayers is a poet, novelist, publisher, and time travel enthusiast. She facilitates Write Away™ generative writing workshops, leads private salons for book groups, and teaches at writers’ conferences. Born and raised in New York City, Lana cemented her night-owl nature there. She lived in New England for several years before relocating to the Pacific Northwest, where she enjoys the near-perpetual plink of rain on the roof. The sea’s steady whoosh and clear-night-sky stars are pretty cool, too. Lana holds an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, as well as degrees in Poetry, Psychology, and Mathematics. She is obsessed with exotic flavors of ice cream, Little Red Riding Hood, TV shows about house hunting, amateur detective stories, and black & white cats and dogs. Her favorite color is the swirl of Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

lana book Lana Hechtman Ayers’s latest book, Time Flash: Another Me, is a time traveling story with a cat as a character. What’s not to like? A quick summary for my readers: The Granola Diet promises to turn curvy Sara Rodríguez Bloom García into a svelte, new woman in no time. Once it does, her husband’s rekindled passions will be unstoppable—she hopes. But “Holy molé salsa!”—when Sara reaches for the box of cereal, she travels back in time to a childhood trip to the grocery store with her beloved grandmother. Seeing her dead grandmother alive and well again is wonderful, but Sara may be losing her mind, or much, much more. What starts out as another fad diet, leads Sara on a time travel journey of perilous twists and turns—fraught with double-agents, lusty redheads, and a deadly serum. Sara’s possibly-magical cat, a sexy former crush, tasty meals, and vivid music enliven the darker moments. Fans of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series will love Time Flash: Another Me.

Where did the idea come from for your latest book, Time Flash: Another Me?
After years of publishing poetry collections, Time Flash: Another Me is my first novel. I’ve been obsessed with time travel since childhood, thanks to my older brother who controlled the TV and forced me watch Science Fiction. When I finally decided it was time to fulfill my lifelong dream of writing a novel, it had to be time travel. My favorite time travel stories have always been the ones where characters can change the past, thereby wreaking havoc in their present and future. These stories are always about characters becoming their truest selves.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?
Main character Sara is my favorite because I completely identify with her. She’s always trying to lose ten pounds or twenty, believing the newest fad diet will fix her life. She’s emotionally stuck since the trauma of losing a baby. Her marriage and career are in limbo. A dangerous experiment that causes her to time travel not only turns her into the heroine she never knew she was, but teaches her to accept and love herself exactly as she is. She also forges deeper relationships with the loved ones in her life.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?
My novel is published with our local county co-operative press. All manuscripts need to be vetted by member-authors in order to be considered for publication. In addition, the manuscripts must be professionally edited and copy-edited. This is really a great hybrid publishing choice. Quality of the books produced by the press is assured. Plus, authors have greater control over the design and distribution of their books.

Publishing with the co-operative press was the best choice for me because my two previous acceptances with small traditional presses wanted me to make changes to the manuscript that I was ethically unwilling to make. One press wanted me to switch my main protagonist to a male. The other wanted me to whitewash my heroine’s race and ethnicity.

The only real disadvantage is that a co-operative press will never have the same cache as publishing with one of the big-five houses.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?
Definitely a pantser. Maybe this comes from being a poet before I was a fiction writer. My poems arrive on the page word by word. Fiction comes to me as a character’s internal thoughts first, then dialogue between characters. Characters tend to just show up in my head fully formed. Plot arises out of the different characters’ needs and difficulties. Setting is the thing I need to remember to add in. My first draft is always just heads in space talking.

What was your favorite book as a child?
I was a precocious reader. I started reading adult novels at the age of seven, after I’d exhausted the children’s’ books in my local library. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells was an early favorite, because it broadened for me the scope of time travel to how humanity might evolve—or devolve. It got me to thinking about the earth itself in an ecological sense. It also taught me the concept of human values for society as a whole, driving home the idea that we are all interconnected.

What writing project are you currently working on?
I am working on another story in the Time Flash world, featuring a minor character from the first book. I’m also beginning my first in a series of cozy mysteries that take place on the Oregon coast. And I’m working on two different poetry collections. One is an ekphrastic project based on photographs taken by my father-in-law of county landmarks. The other poetry collection is about the scientific notion of time.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?
The best advice and the hardest—write no matter what. This advice came from prolific, multi-genre author Dean Wesley Smith. That means even when I lose faith in the value of my own words, I have to keep going. That means when the critic in my head tells me my story sucks, I have to keep writing until it’s done. Even when I don’t feel like writing because I am tired or sick or want to watch TV, I should just write.

Want to learn more about Lana Hechtman Ayers and Time Flash: Another Me? Check out her : Website, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of Time Flash: Another Me.

Thanks to author Lana Hechtman Ayers for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Andrew McDowell on January 8, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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